A Happy Easter for Donagh on the Circuit of Ireland!
April 22, 2014 by Andrew Bushe
A second place on the Circuit of Ireland Rally was just reward for Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan in their Northgate Vehicle Hire Ford Focus WRC, after a hard fought drive. The West Cork winners started the event in fine form, taking fastest time on the first stage near Newtownards and maintaining second place until stage four, despite the engine also being turned down a little for this long rally.
“It was all very tight early on” commented Donagh. “I was happy with our start, everything felt good, and we were up on the pace. It was amazing over the 17 kilometres of Hamilton’s Folly the top four were all within one second of each other.”
On stage five- Ballygowan the team had their first moment of this marathon eighteen stage event. “We were lucky not to collect a tree. It was a right hander which tightened on a main road, and the back end just came right around. We dropped over twenty seconds as the car stalled, and back to third.” An overshoot on the gravelly Lough Henney stage near Lisburn and confusion with the start marshal on the Newtownards town test cost a few more seconds. The VSM Sport car had ran faultlessly though and they ended the first leg 46 seconds behind leader Garry Jennings, and 22 seconds behind Declan Boyle in second. At the start of day two fourth placed Eugene Donnelly slid off on the first test, so any pressure behind was lifted, but Donagh had his own moment on the next 29 kilometre Bronte Homeland stage, as the Focus slid through a gate into a field!
“We were having a really good run on that stage, and we were still second fastest despite going into the field and coming back out again. It was just a case of braking a little too late.” Next up for the National crews were two runs around Lisburn, with Donagh recording a fastest time on the second run. “It was very enjoyable going round Lisburn, and it was brilliant to see the big crowds out to watch the rally. It definitely helps the sport and full credit to the organisers for an excellent event all round.”
After Lisburn the Pirelli shod Focus was just 7.3 seconds behind Declan Boyle’s Subaru, but the fellow Donegal man had a flying run over the next test, and the KN Networks team elected to settle for Irish Tarmac points in third. Third was to become second however, as misfortune befell leader Garry Jennings, who punctured and got stuck on a bank on the penultimate test, then rolled out of the rally lead on the final Gregorlough stage, handing victory to Declan Boyle and second to Donagh and Kevin. Third place went to five times Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity in his Mini WRC, with Kenny McKinstry fourth in his S14 Subaru. “It was definitely bad luck for Garry, and it will be interesting to see who all goes to Killarney in two weeks. The Circuit was a good event for us and I’m happy that we are more on the pace. For us the season has started with a third, now a second, so maybe it’s time to go one better!” The team are now in a firm second place in the Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, with the Killarney Rally of Lakes on 3rd-4th May the third round of Ireland’s premier rally series..